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ENGLISH OF SHAKESPEARE
A Philological Commentary
GEORGE L. CRAIK,
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN
QUEEN'S COLLEGE, BELFAST.
In this attempt to illustrate the ENGLISH OF SHAKESPEARE, I would be understood to have had a twofold purpose, in conformity with the title of the volume, which would naturally be taken to promise something of exposition in regard both to the language or style of Shakespeare and to the English language generally.
My first business, however, I have considered to be the correct exhibition and explanation of the noble work of our great dramatist with which the volume professes to be specially occupied. I will begin, therefore, by stating what I have done, or endeavoured to do, for the Play of JULIUS CÆSAR.
In the first place, I have given what I believe to be a more nearly authentic Text than has yet appeared. Julius Cæsar is, probably, of all Shakespeare's Plays, the one of which the text has come down to us in the least unsatisfactory state. From whatever cause it has happened, the passages in this Play as to the true reading of which there can be much reasonable doubt are, comparatively, very few. Even when anything is wrong in the original edition, the manner in which it is to be set to rights is for the most part both pretty obvious and nearly certain. There are perhaps scarcely so many as half-a-dozen lines of any importance which must be given up as hopelessly incurable or even doubtful. It is, I should think, of all the Plays, by much the easiest to edit ; both the settlement of the text and its explanation are, I conceive, simpler than would be the case in any other; and it is for that reason partly that I have selected it for the present attempt.
The alterations which I have found it necessary to make upon the commonly received text do not amount to very many; and the considerations by which I have been guided are in every instance fully stated in the Commentary. Of twenty-six new readings given by Mr. Collier, on the authority of his corrected edition of the Second Folio, I have adopted sixteen, two of which, however, had also been produced as conjectural emendations by editors of the last century. The only conjectural innovations which I have ventured upon of my own are, the change of “What night is this ?” into “ What a night is this ?”' in the speech numbered 117; the insertion of “not” after “Has he,” in that numbered 402 ; and the transposition of the two names Lucilius and Lucius in that numbered 521. The first and second of these three corrections are of little moment, though both, I think, clearly required ; the third I hold to be both of absolute certainty and necessity, and also of considerable importance, affecting as it does the whole course of the Fourth Act of the Play (with the exception only of the first short Scene), restoring propriety and consistency to the conduct of the action and the parts sustained by the various personages, and vindicating a reading of the First Folio in a subsequent speech (571) which, curiously enough, had never been previously noticed by anybody, but has been silently ignored and departed from even by those of the modern editors who have professed to adhere the most scrupulously to that original text.
For the rest, the present text differs in nothing material from that which is found in all the modern editions, unless it be that I have restored from the First Folio one or two antiquated forms,—such as 'em for them, and moe in several places for more,—which have been usually suppressed, although 'em remains familiar enough in our colloquial speech, or at any rate is still perfectly intelligible and unambiguous, and moe is sometimes the only form that will suit the exigencies of the verse.
A merely mechanical innovation in the typographical exhibition of the text will at once catch the eye. The present is, I suppose, the first edition of a Play, in any language, with the speeches numbered. Possibly it may be the first time that any one has thought of counting the speeches in a Play. In that case, the result arrived at, that there are about eight hundred separate utterances, or divisions of the dialogue, long and short, in the drama here examined, may be received as one of some little curiosity and interest. At any